Sunday, January 2, 2022

Famous Infants in History: Jessica McClure

Blogger: Amber Schamel

Today, our next subject in the series of Famous Infants in History, many of you will remember. This baby skyrocketed to fame because of a horrible accident that left the nation in shock.You will remember her as baby Jessica. 

Jessica McClure Morales was born on March 26, 1986 to Reba and Lewis McClure. At the age of 18 months, Jessica was playing in her aunt's backyard in Midland, Texas when her curious nature lured her into a horrible situation.

Jessica McClure, after the incident in 1989
Public Domain - Photo by By Susan Biddle


The incident captured the attention of the nation because it is every parent's worst nightmare. You turn around for a moment, and the next thing you know, something horrible threatens the life of your baby. 

Jessica's aunt ran a daycare from her home, and the infant was there with her mother who was watching the children temporarily. The backyard had a well casing that was eight inches in diameter, but it had been covered by a large rock to prevent any incident. The phone rang, and so Jessica's mother Ruby ran inside to answer it. While she was gone, the children somehow uncovered the pipe and Jessica fell down the twenty-two foot shaft. She was trapped. 

Her mother returned to the yard, only to find her baby girl missing. It didn't take long for her to discover what had happened, and she immediately called 9-1-1. However, the rescue effort would be more complex than you could imagine. 

The well shaft was too narrow and long for the emergency workers to reach Jessica, so they would have to come up with another plan. However, the shaft was surrounded by layers of rock that were harder than granite. It would take an entire community to rescue this baby girl. 

The rescue plan was to drill a hole big enough for rescue workers to enter perpendicular to the shaft, and then drill horizontally to where Jessica was. They employed a machine that was typically used to plant telephone poles to drill the vertical hole thirty inches wide, and twenty-nine feet deep. Then they began to drill the horizontal shaft. But again, complications arose. The jackhammers that the crew used were ineffective because they were designed to drill downward, rather than horizontally. It wasn't working. And every passing moment increased the danger to baby Jessica.

A mining engineer was called on the scene to help find a solution. He recommended what was cutting edge technology at the time, water-jet cutting, to get through the rock. 

Jessica and her parents meet President H.W Bush in 1989
Public domain photo By Susan Biddle

During this time, rescue workers attempted to stay in constant communication with Jessica and pump oxygen down the pipe for her to breathe. They would talk to her, encourage her, and ask her to sing. Jessica would moan, cry, beg for her mother or her Pooh bear, and sing nursery rhymes to pass the time. One witness said he will never forget her singing of "Winnie the Pooh" echoing up the pipe. 

News networks across the world picked up on the story. CNN was the only twenty-four hour news network in the nation at the time, and for only the second time in U.S. history, the entire nation watched around the clock as this drama unfolded on live TV.

Forty-five hours after Jessica had fallen down the well casing, the tunnels were completed. Paramedic Robert O'Donnell entered the shaft and inched his way toward Jessica. He succeeded in wrestling Jessica free of the shaft, and she was passed up to the surface where she was reunited with her frantic mother and rushed off to receive badly needed medical attention. 

After three days being trapped underground in a cramped position, without food or water, baby Jessica was in serious condition. She underwent fifteen surgeries to treat all of the injuries and complications from the ordeal, however she was able to fully recover. 

Nevertheless, the incident made a permanent mark on Jessica's life. She suffers from chronic, but controllable rheumatoid arthritis, is missing the pinky toe on her right foot, and has a diagonal scar across her forehead. 

At the age of 25, Jessica received a trust fund of the donations that had been sent for her during the ordeal, and she used some of the funds to purchase a house - less than two miles away from the shaft she fell into as an infant. 

Today, Jessica is happy, with a family of her own. To find out more about how Jessica is doing today, check out this video interview on Youtube.


Two-time winner of the Christian Indie Award for historical fiction, Amber Schamel writes riveting stories that bring HIStory to life. She has a passion for travel, history, books and her Savior. This combination results in what her readers call "historical fiction at its finest".  

She lives in Colorado Springs near her favorite mountain, in a small “castle” with her prince charming. Between enjoying life as a new mom, and spinning stories out of soap bubbles, Amber loves to connect with readers and hang out on Goodreads with other bookish peoples.

Amber is a proud member of the American Christian Fiction Writers Association. Visit her online at and download a FREE story by subscribing to her Newsletter!

1 comment:

  1. Wow! Thank you for posting this! I haven't thought of that story for years!